Hamilton County to create Community Action Plan to address mental health, addiction issues


Hamilton County Community Foundation Community Leadership Officer Jeena Siela is convinced pooling information and resources will help address mental health and addiction issues in Hamilton County.

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Hamilton County Community Foundation, an affiliate of Central Indiana Community Foundation, is partnering with Hamilton County and Aspire Indiana Health to conduct a comprehensive assessment of behavioral health needs with the mission to create a Community Action Plan, which will increase accessibility and affordability for those who need it most.

Community Solutions has been hired to conduct the behavioral needs assessment.

“We brought in Community Solutions to drive home results-based accountability,” Siela said.

The project is estimated to cost $30,000. The Hamilton County Community Foundation has committed $20,000 to the project, with Aspire Indiana Health and Hamilton County each contributing $5,000. The goal is to finalize the action plan by August.

“Mental health is a very timely issue to be taking on at the county level given what everyone has gone through with the pandemic,” Siela said. “Even before the pandemic, there were certainly mental health issues, and they’ve just been exacerbated both by adults and children because of COVID. At the foundation, we were planning on doing this before COVID, and now it’s just really highlighted the real need to come together as a community and address mental health at the county level.”

Siela said many municipalities have taken on mental health at the city level.

“The furthest along is Fishers with their StigmaFree Fishers. With Mayor Scott Fadness and his leadership, they have been doing a lot of great work,” she said. “We help start up the Westfield Wellbeing Coalition, and we are currently working with Noblesville with their Wellbeing Coalition.”

Siela said the goal with Community Solutions is take all the good work the cities and municipalities are doing and bring it to light at the county level.

“We want to make sure we are all collaborating and working together,” Siela said. “If something great is happening in Fishers, it’s maybe something Noblesville could start implementing and vice versa. Just as an example, we want to make sure at the end of the day we are making the strides needed in order to really affect mental health in Hamilton County.”

Community Solutions’ two-phased approach will start by assessing community needs, resources and gaps. It will accomplish that by partnering with state and local public health agencies, health systems, criminal justice and law enforcement partners as well as township trustees, paramedical agencies and service providers to help determine the county’s priority populations and health issues. Community Solutions also will develop a comprehensive listing of behavioral health partners, programs and services already available in the county.

“It always requires a collaboration and lots of different folks around the table to make a difference,” said Lisa Osterman, director of strategic initiatives at Community Solutions. “It requires partners to develop a shared understanding of why things are the way they are and what causes them to be that way. Also, (it takes) a shared understanding of what it takes to make a difference both in terms of the types of strategies and making sure they are not doing what they’ve always done before.”

Osterman said it’s important to focus on bringing in research evidence-based practices and learning from other communities and each other.

“We’re happy to come in to help assess the landscape, figure out what’s going on, pull together some data and share that information back with stakeholders all across all of those areas throughout the county representing different interests and expertise,” she said.